Shaarei Yosher, sec. 4: Connecting – part 1

Although at first glance it seems that feelings of love for oneself and feelings of love for others are like competing co-wives one to the other, we have the duty to try to delve into it, to find the means to unite them, since Hashem expects both from us. This means [a person must] explain and accept the truth of the quality of his “I”, for with it the statures of [different] people are differentiated, each according to their level.
והנה אם בהשקפה ראשונה רגשי אהבת עצמו ורגשי אהבת זולתו, הם כצרות זו לזו, אבל עלינו להשתדל להעמיק בזה למצוא הסגולה המאחדת אותם אחרי כי שניהם דורש ה׳ מאתנו, וסגולה זו היא שיתברר ויתאמת אצל האדם איכותו של ה״אני״ שלו, כי בזה יומדד מעלת כל האדם לפי מדרגתו,

(The term used for co-wives, for two wives in a polygamous marriage arrangement, is “tzaros” — literally, “troubles”.) Rav Shimon is aware that the introduction until this point presents a dialectic. We might have thought the two poles were unresolvable, “like competing co-wives”), but Rav Shimon’s path in avodas Hashem is based on their synthesis.

Thesis:

For everything He created and formed was according to His Will (may it be blessed), [that is] only to be good to the creations. So too His Will is that we walk in His ways. As it says “and you shall walk in His Ways” (Devarim 28:9)
שכל מה שברא ויצר היה רצונו יתברך רק להיטיב עם הנבראים, כן רצונו ית׳ שנהלך בדרכיו כאמור “והלכת בדרכיו”,

Antithesis:

There are also grounds for asserting that in the very foundation of the creation of Adam, the Creator planted in him a very great measure of propensity to love himself.
ועוד יש מקום שביסוד בריאת אדם נטע הבורא ית׳ בו תשוקת אהבת עצמו במדה גדולה מאד,

We will see how Rav Shimon resolves the tension between these two thoughts in future installments. However, we already had two hints in Rav Shimon’s discussion of the value of self-interest.

First:

As Rabbi Aqiva taught us, “your life comes first.” [Our sages] left us a hint of it when they interpret the scripture “Love your neighbor as yourself” in a negative sense, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your peers.” In terms of obligation, it is fitting for a person to place his own good first.
שהרי הורה לנו ר׳ עקיבא “חייך קודמים”, וגם רמזו לנו לפרש את המקרא, “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” בדרך שלילי “מאי דעלך סני, לחברך לא תעביד”, אבל בדרך חיובי ראוי לאדם להקדים את טובת עצמו,

The verse “ואהבת לרעך כמוך — and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” still places one’s actual self first.

Second, from the installment just before this one:

In this way one can explain that which is said, “Moses will be joyous with the giving of his portion, because You called him a reliable servant.” [Shabbos Morning Amidah] There is no joy in receiving a bit of wisdom unless he is a reliable servant who possesses nothing, that it is all his Master and Lord’s.
ועל דרך זה יש לבאר האמור “ישמח משה במתנת חלקו כי עבד נאמן קראת לו”, היינו שאין לשמוח במתנת חלק החכמה, רק אם הוא עבד נאמן שחושב שהכל אינו שלו ורק לרבו ואדונו,

The key to joy is to see oneself as a servant of G-d, i.e. to commit oneself to giving His Good to others.

Combining these two ideas, Rav Shimon now adds the idea that the quality of a person’s “I”, differentiates the statures of different people. The servant of Hashem is thus someone with a different quality of “I” than the rest of us, and this informs his loving someone else like himself (his “I”).

In the next installment, we will see more specifically how these qualities differ.

And your thoughts...?